Sure we’ve seen underdog-themed sports comedies ad nauseam. But when was the last time you saw it with mix-ins of toilet and marijuana humor? Aha! Touché Who's Your Caddy? touché. Our token er tokin’ underdog here is C-Note (Antwan Patton aka Big Boi from Outkast) a multi-platinum Atlanta-based rapper who just wants to get his golf on. But here’s the catch: He wants to do so at an ultra-exclusive ultra-conservative seemingly all-white country club and the club’s president Cummings (Jeffrey Jones) isn’t having any of it. So what’s a golf-lorn hip-hopper to do? Why plunk down millions on the course’s chicest estate and invite his posse (Faizon Love Finesse Mitchell and others) to move in and hassle the prez to grant C-Note club membership. So begins the cat-and-mouse hijinks between C-Note and Cummings each of whom hopes force the other’s hand. And it only ends when—surprise surprise—a do-or-die golf match is agreed upon to settle the score. All of the cast members fit the bill for such crassness—except for oddly enough Patton (Boi?). And when a rapper-turned-actor is too good for a role it’s a solid indication of just how low the bar is. Producers aren’t exactly banging down Patton’s door with Oscar-worthy scripts but his offers must be better than Caddy which he probably viewed as a good first foray into the lucrative family-comedy genre. Oops. Patton is charismatic charming funny in spots—despite appearing to break character once or twice—and as seen in Idlewild and heard in his music highly talented. But Caddy is a misstep in an otherwise promising movie career. Luckily not too many people will venture to theaters to witness the degree to which it is. The brunt of the minimal comedy comes from Notorious B.I.G. doppelganger Love and former SNL-er Mitchell. The few funny scenes with the two in which Love injects his standup humor and Mitchell his stoner aloofness are scenes of (likely improvised) non-sequiturs. Ferris Bueller's Day Off villain Jones is as hateful and hateable as ever only to be topped by MTV star Andy Milonakis who plays Jones’ onscreen son. Milonakis initially plays it so straight that even his fans will squirm in embarrassment; it only gets worse when he rebels against his father and changes teams. Who's Your Caddy? writer-director Don Michael Paul’s only other movie you may have heard of (2002’s Half Past Dead) was a Steven Seagal movie—and his latest pales in comparison. Paul’s interests clearly lie in the lowest of lowbrow but whereas the Scary/Date/Epic Movie clan for example manages a few laughs—and millions of dollars—out of their comedies he can’t ever get Caddy going in any positive direction. At times in fact the movie borders on blatant racism as he tries to exploit black stereotypes and white stereotypes for cheap laughs. When that’s not the case the movie merely rips off bits of countless other better movies—despite the “originality” of fart and weed jokes being in a sports movie. Look closely if you dare and you may detect theft from Happy Gilmore Caddyshack How High Friday or maybe even Malibu's Most Wanted. Worse still than his plot devices is Paul’s implementation of directorial devices such as ever-changing cinematography depending upon the degree of giddiness he’s trying to attain or freeze-frame shots to introduce certain characters.
Still living with his immigrant family in Brighton Beach Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) has had enough--the family restaurant has no customers his cook brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) can't cook and his mother nags his devout Jewish father who is anything but Jewish. So instead of getting sucked into a go-nowhere life Yuri naturally gets into arms dealing. After selling a local hood an Uzi Yuri discovers that he might actually have the knack. He recruits his younger brother--more for moral support than business acumen--and begins to soar up the arms dealing food chain attaining wealth luxury and an exciting lifestyle along the way. The only thing he lacks is his dream girl--Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan) a Brighton Beach beauty queen-turned-supermodel. But Yuri finally wins her heart too by posing as a legitimate businessman with more money than he actually has. Ava senses he's not legit but just as long as they have their penthouse overlooking Central Park and a chauffeured limo she'd rather not know what he does. Meanwhile Yuri's interests clash with his chief rival Simeon Weisz (Ian Holm) an old-school gun runner coming to terms with the end of the Cold War. Backed into a corner Yuri is given a choice between continued competition or none at all and his decision sends Yuri into a spiral of rapid moral decay despite ever-increasing profits. His greatest struggle through it all has been with himself. In the end he learns to accept the Golden Rule of arms dealing: Never wage war with anybody especially yourself.
The highlight of Niccol's biting satire is undoubtedly Cage's performance as the amoral but charming Yuri. How is it that we root for this loathsome character when he deserves our scorn? Perhaps the answer lies in Cage himself who is adept at playing scoundrels with humor and aplomb. Not many other actors come to mind who can pull off a frantic matter-of-factness quite like Cage a crucial quality needed to disarm the audience into rooting for a guy who gets stinking rich by selling guns to murderers. Equally likeable is Yuri's best customer Baptiste Senior (Eamonn Walker) the president of Liberia whose only competition for the prize of Most Ruthless Killer is his own son (Sammi Rotibi). Meanwhile Ethan Hawke shows up every now and then as Jack Valentine a by-the-book Interpol agent hot on Yuri's trail. Valentine's adherence to the law allows him to routinely miss opportunities to nab his foe. He won't yield an inch and at one point even keeps Yuri in custody without charges for the full maximum of twenty-four hours but not a second more. Bridget Moynahan's performance as Yuri's wife is serviceable though she does effectively convey the hurt and sorrow of a wife deceived. Leto's turn as Yuri's drug-addicted brother has both its comedic and tragic moments--his character has the most defined arc and the young actor makes the most of it. Only Ian Holm as Yuri's chief foil seems out of place. Half the time he looks bored to be there the other half he doesn't seem to care. Any old British actor with a smudge of charm could have filled this character's small shoes.
The film opens with Yuri speaking to the camera (his narration runs throughout) but it's the following sequence that pulls us in. Starting at a munitions factory in the Soviet Union we follow a bullet from its creation as it travels through various ports on its way to an African country where it's loaded into an AK-47 and shot into a child's head--a powerful and stylish way to show us the tragedy of the arms business without being dogmatic. From there the film settles down into a standard narrative which is where Cage's impressive performance kicks in. Niccol who also wrote the screenplay offers no apologies for Yuri's detachment from his business dealings though it's tough to pinpoint what thematically he's trying to say. Perhaps it's that the arms trade is a fact of life something all governments partake in--particularly the United States the biggest arms dealer in the world. As we watch Yuri grow in wealth while losing everything else most people consider important--family friends morality--Niccol seems content showing us the world as is without offering solutions. The last we see of Yuri is in some war-torn part of the world standing among thousands of spent bullet casings. He has accepted his fate with a casual shrug telling us that so too should we.
At the turn of the 20th century we meet a tiger family living peacefully in the jungle ruins of an ancient Southeast Asian temple. The two male cubs--Kumal and Sangha (their given "human" names as we come to find out)--are tight as two brothers can be with Kumal being the more brave and adventurous of the two while Sangha remains the shyer more sensitive one. Their happy existence comes to a screeching halt however when a British hunter Aidan McRory (Guy Pierce) invades their world in search of sacred temple artifacts and inadvertently separates the two tiger cubs. Kumal is eventually sold off to a circus where captivity robs him of his spirit. Sangha on the other hand finds brief happiness as the beloved pet of a governor's lonely young son Raoul (Freddie Highmore) until an accident forces the family to give him away to a spoiled prince whose animal trainers turn Sangha into a fierce fighter for sport. A year later the full-grown brothers are finally reunited in a ring where they are forced to do battle for the enjoyment of bloodthirsty patrons--but the tigers end up recognizing each other instead and renewing their long-lost kinship. Together Kumal and Sangha escape their confines and head out to rediscover their roots in the jungle--that is if the big bad white men will let them.
Two Brothers focuses all its attention on the tigers leaving the human actors to serve only in perfunctory roles but Pierce stands out the most as the kindly McRory. The actor infuses the skilled hunter with a realistic outlook; he kills what he considers a dangerous man-eater. Yet by bonding with Kumal McRory eventually becomes the tiger's friend rather than its foe--and it's very gratifying to see him gain respect and admiration for the animals thus laying down his arms. Young Highmore (who will play Charlie Bucket in the upcoming Tim Burton remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) also adds a nice touch as Raoul whose innocence and pure love for Sangha teaches the adults around him a thing or two about caring for wildlife. But of course in a film of this nature mankind will ultimately be the bad guy; there's no way around it. And Two Brothers is chock-full of them--ignorant greedy and mean-spirited as they are.
"This movie is a combination of three of my greatest passions: the animal world a love of monasteries and temples and my fascination with the European colonial period. It was a world that irritated and fascinated but its buffoonery and quirky characters also amused me " explains Two Brothers filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud. As the critically acclaimed director of the 1989 The Bear Annaud knows what he is talking about having done the almost impossible again with Two Brothers--a compelling heartwarming film in which beautiful wild potentially dangerous and very real tigers are the main stars. How does he do it you may ask? Apparently he surrounds himself with the best animal trainers in the world including head trainer Thierry Le Portier. Annaud and Le Portier use about 30 different tigers in all each with their own unique personalities and specialties (i.e. some are better for the maternal scenes; others for the stunts). As well Annaud employs High Definition digital rather than just 35mm cameras (an upgrade since The Bear) which allows longer uninterrupted takes with the tigers. The end effect is mesmerizing as it puts you right there with the gorgeous animals. Some animatronic tigers are used but only in cases where the animals may have been in danger especially in one scene where the brother tigers escape a jungle fire. Of course there really isn't a story per se only vignettes in which you sort of gear yourself up for something bad to happen; that somehow the evils of mankind will prevail--and while Two Brothers still chokes you up it's more out of relief and happiness when everything turns out right.